Monday, February 26, 2007

Mystery Book Review: The Arsenic Labyrinth by Martin Edwards

Mysterious ReviewsMysterious Reviews, mysteries reviewed by the Hidden Staircase Mystery Books, has written our review of The Arsenic Labyrinth by Martin Edwards. For our blog readers, we are printing it first here in advance of its publication on our website.The Arsenic Labyrinthn by Martin Edwards

The Arsenic Labyrinth by Martin Edwards
A Lake District Mystery

Poisoned Pen Press (Hardcover)
ISBN-10: 1-59058-328-0 (1590583280)
ISBN-13: 978-1-59058-328-9 (9781590583289)
Publication Date: January 2007
List Price: $24.95

Synopsis (from the publisher): After 10 years, Guy--a drifter with a taste for deception--has returned to Coniston in England's Lake District. A local journalist, Tony di Venuto, is campaigning to revive interest in the disappearance of Emma Bestwick, and Guy knows what happened to her.

When he tips off the newspaperman that Emma will not be coming home, DCI Hannah Scarlett, head of Cumbria's Cold Case Review Team, re-opens the old investigation. Her enquiries take her to the Museum of Myth and Legend and to the remote and eerie Arsenic Labyrinth--a series of stone tunnels used to remove arsenic from tin ore.

Meanwhile, historian Daniel Kind is immersing himself in the work of John Ruskin, whose neighbors created the Arsenic Labyrinth. A shocking discovery makes it clear to Hannah that there is not one mystery to solve, but two, and she turns to Daniel for help in untangling the secrets of the past. As Hannah and Daniel struggle to resist a growing but dangerous attraction, Guy's plan to make a quick buck runs into trouble, and he has to resort to desperate measures. Someone is determined to kill to keep their secrets safe.

Review: Martin Edward's third mystery set in the Lake District of England, The Arsenic Labyrinth, is at its best in the beautiful descriptions of the region and for creating a moody atmosphere for the characters. The plot, however, is a bit convoluted and the overlapping storylines make it at times difficult to follow.

After reading an article about the 10-year anniversary of the disappearance of Emma Bestwick, Guy Koenig, a man who knows better than to divulge too many secrets, makes an anonymous call to the reporter who wrote the story, stating simply, "Emma Bestwick won't be coming back." This phone call sets into motion a series of events that includes reopening the case by Detective Chief Inspector Hannah Scarlett, who was originally assigned to investigate the missing girl. Independently, historian Daniel Kind is researching the life of John Ruskin, the influential 19th century author, poet, and artist who spent much of his later life in the Lake District. Daniel's reasearch and Hannah's investigation intersect at a series of tunnels beneath the landscape known locally as the Arsenic Labyrinth, culminating in the resolution to the mystery of a young woman's disappearance a decade ago.

Following an intriguing opening chapter, The Arsenic Labyrinth quickly loses its momentum as Edwards sets up the various subplots through alternating points of view. The most interesting of these is that of Guy Koenig, a petty criminal and con man, who plays a pivotal role in the investigation, and, as Hannah considers him, "never had an unselfish impulse in his life". Somewhat ironically, it isn't until after his murder about halfway through that the story regains the traction of its original premise. The startling conclusion, with its disclosure of Guy's true involvement in the disappearance of Emma Bestwick 10 years ago, more than compensates for a slow start to this reflective mystery.

Special thanks to Poisoned Pen Press for providing an ARC of The Arsenic Labyrinth for this review.

Review Copyright © 2007 Hidden Staircase Mystery Books

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